Warrior women

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Both Visenya and Rhaenys headed armies and rode their dragons into battle during the War of Conquest - by Feliche©
Dacey Mormont depiction by Amok©

Warrior women are women who are skilled in combat and take part in battle, warfare etc.

About

In Westeros male warriors are plentiful. Westerosi warrior women on the other hand are quite uncommon. Westerosi women however are not forbidden from becoming warriors but neither is it encouraged or seen as acceptable and feminine by many Westerosi. Nor is a woman viewed as a suitable opponent for men, especially during one-to-one combat. Even hitting a shield with the image of a woman can make a man feel unchivalrous.[1]

Despite Westeros having a martial culture, a culture that reveres the warrior,[2] no separate warrior class in exists for women in Westeros, except in the ranks of the Poor Fellows, a military order under the command of the High Septon. They accepted women as warriors.

One of the few famous warrior women in Westeros’s histories is Visenya Targaryen, who wielded the Valyrian steel sword Dark Sister and rode Vhagar into battle. Unlike her sister Visenya Targaryen there is no mention of Rhaenys wielding a sword or any other weapon but like her sister she commanded armies and rode her dragon into battle during the War of Conquest. According to GRRM both women were warriors and dragonriders in their own rights. [3]

Nymeria, the warrior-queen of the Rhoyne who conquered Dorne, is well known, however Nymeria was a war leader but not a warrior - that is, a commander rather than a combatant. [4]

In Westeros women tend to be considered the gentler sex, in need of protection. The ability for a woman to be able to defend herself is considered unnecessary and unfeminine besides. Highborn women are not encouraged towards warfare or expected to know how to physically defend themselves, although they may perhaps be instructed on the tactics of warfare, especially if they are female heirs to a House. Lord Randyll Tarly sums up many a man’s thought on women warriors,

“The gods made men to fight, and women to bear children. A woman’s war is in the birthing bed.”

It is not possible for a woman to become a knight, nor is there a female equivalent of knighthood for a woman who is bent on living a martial life, for a woman who also wishes to abide by a chivalric code. Although Brienne of Tarth is as skilled as most any a knight there is no place among them for a woman such as she. Nor is there a feminine title for a woman warrior, such as “Ser” as knights have, to acknowledge her ability and chosen vocation, much to the confusion of Podrick Payne.

Further north however it is not so unusual for a woman to be able to physically defend herself. The women of House Mormont and Bear Island have had no choice but to learn how to preserve themselves during attacks from ironmen and wildling raiders while their menfolk are absent. Lady Maege Mormont tells Catelyn Stark,

"We have needed to be [warriors]. In olden days the ironmen would come raiding in their longboats, or wildlings from the Frozen Shore. The men would be off fishing, like as not. The wives they left behind had to defend themselves and their children, or else be carried off." [5]

Beyond the Wall there are spearwives, they are accepted and respected by the men of the Free Folk. The Free Folk culture is a warrior culture, one that gives women the right, but not the obligation, to be fighters. [6]

The ironborn are more also more accepting of women warriors and are willing to fight alongside them.

Some of the women of Dorne fight but it's not the rule.[7]

There appears to be a culture for warrior woman east of the Bone Mountains, there are warrior maids of Kayakayanaya, Bayasabhad and Shamyriana, nothing is known about their culture or martial skills.

It is not known if the Valyrians had warrior women. Thus far there has been no mention of Dark Sister being passed on to a female Targaryen after Visenya.

Warrior Women of Westeros

Warrior Women Beyond the Wall

Warrior Women of Essos

Quotes


“Men will always underestimate you and their pride will make them want to vanquish you quickly, lest it be said that a woman tried them sorely.” [10]

– Ser Goodwin, to Brienne


"She is supposed to be freakish. She was an answer to the bad fantasy cliché of warrior women." [11]

GRRM, on Brienne


"Ser? My Lady?"

- Pod


“What we are is what you made us. On Bear Island every child learns to fear the krakens rising from the sea.”

Alysane Mormont, to Asha Greyjoy


Her last foe was a northman with an axe, a big man bald and bearded, clad in a byrnie of patched and rusted mail that could only mean he was a chief or champion. He was not pleased to find himself fighting a woman.


Her very womanhood seemed to offend him. Men from the green lands liked their women soft and sweet in silk, she knew, not clad in mail and leather with a throwing axe in each hand.

- Asha Greyjoy


I wanted to present my female characters in great diversity, even in a society as sexist and patriarchal as the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. Women would find different roles and different personalities, so women with different talents would find ways to work with it in a society according to who they are. [12]

- GRRM


"It is a rare and precious gift to be a knight." [13]

Brienne of Tarth

References and Notes

  1. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 33, Jaime V, p 606.
  2. The Citadel. “Land Ownership and Marriage in Westeros?”So Spake Martin
  3. December 24, 2005, More Targaryen Descriptions So Spake Martin
  4. Dornish women - So Spake Martin
  5. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 45, Catelyn V, p 522.
  6. June 03, 2003, Concerning Wildling Women. So Spake Martin
  7. Dornish women - So Spake Martin
  8. June 03, 2003, Concerning Wildling Women.So Spake Martin
  9. A Game of Thrones, Chapter 10, Jon II, p 97.
  10. A Feast for Crows, Chapter 4, Brienne I.
  11. November 18, 2005, US Signing Tour (Half Moon Bay, CA) So Spake Martin
  12. George R.R. Martin: "Trying to please everyone is a horrible mistake" Adria's News
  13. A Storm of Swords, Chapter 11, Jaime II.